The Atlanta Braves started out this season with some early concerns from the bullpen. However, a few recoveries and one newly added pitcher, Ervin Santana, are scheduled to put the Braves back into a normal rotation. Even one of the most doubtful offensive players, B.J. Upton, hasn’t completely disappointed like expected.
I feel like the Braves are shaping out a lot better than expected. On the other hand, so are other National League East teams—particularly the Washington Nationals. There are a few things the Braves can maintain and implement to secure their spot in the playoffs.
It is no secret that first baseman Freddie Freeman is the foundation of the Braves’ organization this season. At bat he’s averaging .442 with an on base percentage of .519. Freeman is standing as the second most successful first baseman this season in the National League. He follows right behind Nationals first baseman, Kevin Frandsen (.467/.529).
Besides Freeman’s exceptional at bats, he is heavily relied upon in the field. Freeman has grown to be the leader of the team on and off of the diamond. Despite the fact that Freeman is only 24 years old, many players look to him for advice and direction. In order for the Braves to lock in a spot in the playoffs for the 2014 season, Freeman needs to remain confident and continue to advance as a hitter and fielder.
Steady the Bullpen
Worries for the Braves arose when five pitchers were placed on the disabled list within the first week of the regular season. However, Ervin Santana joined the team in mid-March and brought with him a strong sense of confidence.
Closer Craig Kimbrel is an essential part of the Braves’ pitching staff. He has proved to be the most depended upon part of the bullpebn within the past two seasons.
Seasoned starters Julio Teheran and Alex Wood are also going to be vital for the Braves to proceed into the postseason. Provided that Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell finds a solid rotation, the team has a great chance at the postseason. The key part in the Braves’ success will be determined by their defense since players such as Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward dominate at the plate.
Resolve Second Base Indecisiveness
Braves fans were dreading another season with second baseman Dan Uggla. He proved last season to fall far short of his expectations as an offensive player. This season, Uggla has improved as a hitter, but hasn’t been very impressive as a fielder. He has already managed to deliver two errors this season.
The Braves have two other options for second base: Tyler Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena. There has been major rotation between the three players already this season. Pena holds an average of .231 at bat in the five games that he has played in the 2014 regular season. Pastornicky has only appeared in three games with four at bats, and hits at .250. Uggla has played the most games (11) of the three players. With 41 at bats under his belt, Uggla only averages .195.
In my opinion, the Braves need to settle on one second baseman before they get too far into the season. Pastornicky is young, but proves great fundamentals and is very steady. Pena is also a great option for the spot, but demonstrates to be slightly less stable at home plate than Pastornicky. When Uggla is in, you never know what to expect. He’s a huge risk on both offense and defense and the Braves can eliminate that risk by playing Pastornicky or Pena. Finding a comfortable fit for second base sooner rather than later will be crucial for the Braves to achieve a playoff position.
Many doubt the Braves will have a successful season this year, but they proved their worth last season even when hindered by Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton’s disgraceful batting averages. I honestly feel like the Braves have a great chance at the playoffs this year with a few adjustments to lineups and rotations. Confidence will be a great factor in the Braves success and team leader, Freddie Freeman, is a great promoter for that.